USC coach Lane Kiffin names Cody Kessler starting QB

After two weeks of waffling and indecision, USC has officially named Cody Kessler its starting quarterback.

"We're going with Cody Kessler as our quarterback, so we need to make sure we're doing things he does really well," Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin said in a YouTube video released by the school.

However, Kiffin refused to go into the reasoning for choosing Kessler over fellow redshirt sophomore Max Wittek, backtracking a day after the embattled fourth-year coach told reporters on a conference call that he would provide the information.

Kessler and fellow redshirt sophomore Max Wittek have alternated in and out of the lineup through USC's first two games, directing the 112th-ranked passing offense in the FBS.

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Kessler has completed 18 of 32 passes this season for 136 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was returned 70 yards for a touchdown in a 10-7 loss to Washington State on Saturday.

Kessler played only one series in the third quarter at Hawaii and was benched for the entire second half against the Cougars.

The bigger question is whether the playcalling will change, regardless of whether Kessler, Wittek or true freshman Max Browne is at the helm. Kiffin has abandoned any semblance of a vertical passing offense, instead deploying an endless array of screens that have infuriated fans, recruits and observers.

Despite the presence of reigning Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Marqise Lee, rising sophomore Nelson Agholor and NFL-caliber tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer, USC has not completed a pass longer than 19 yards this season.

Lee has just 15 receptions for 131 yards, which breaks down to 8.7 yards per catch after averaging 15 yards in his first two seasons. Lee does not have a touchdown this year after catching 25 in his first 25 college games.

The ineptitude of the USC offense threatens to waste a much-improved defense that has intercepted six passes, recorded 11 sacks and allowed 30 total rushing yards under new coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

Naming Kessler as the starter was long overdue, but without substantive changes elsewhere, it won't mean much for the futures of USC and Kiffin.

The state of Troy rests not on Kessler's arm, but in Kiffin's hands.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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